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“Superiority Has An Inferiority Complex”

~ Duke Rohe


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Superiority Has An Inferiority Complex

I have always believed that people who have a need to make themselves superior to others (put others down in order to feel good, constantly reinforce how much “better” they are than others, etc.) are driven by a sense of inferiority, or a fear that they are not enough, or that something is wrong with them.


This can show up early in life as the school yard bully who picks on smaller kids to show how tough or “superior” he or she is. Underneath almost all of this bluster is an insecure child who has probably been receiving negative messages about their lack of worth at home. Sadly, this superior/inferior behavior can continue into adulthood, which often results in a string of failed relationships and conflict among coworkers or business partners.


Of course, the “superior” adult doesn’t seem to be frightened or insecure. Quite the contrary, these people are often seen as totally confident in who they are, and if there is some sort of psychopathology involved (psychopath or sociopath, etc.), they may even believe in their own superiority. More commonly, however, underneath the self-aggrandizement is a person who worries constantly about how he or she is seen by others, which results in their being very “thin-skinned” or someone who often reacts to criticism by lashing out at those who dare to challenge them.


We can look at history to see examples of those who are truly confident versus those who act superior, but are actually overcompensating for feelings of insecurity…Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, Jesus, and Buddha are good examples of truly confident individuals, while Hitler, Mussolini, Joseph McCarthy, and Saddam Hussein would likely fall into the category of those who had a need to be superior based upon a fear of being inferior.


Therefore, I suggest that those of us who are looking to create a better life look at our own tendencies to see ourselves as “better than” others, and make purposeful choices about what perspectives we want to hold on to, and which ones we want to change. In other words, when our confidence allows us to move into the world in a way that is helpful and supportive… when feeling good about ourselves doesn’t require that we put others down, when we can respond to criticism with curiosity, looking to see if there is indeed something to learn from hearing another’s perspective, then this self-confidence can indeed serve our highest purpose.


However, when we find ourselves feeling the need to always be right, and belittling those who disagree with us, when we find ourselves constantly bragging about our accomplishments and reacting vehemently to criticism, these can be signs that we are being driven more by fear and insecurity than true confidence. In which case, those of us who are aware and are willing to take responsibility for who we are and who we are becoming can use this as a valuable signal to shift from an insecure, fear-based perspective to one where we can be proud of who we are, while at the same time, seeing others (even those who may disagree with us) as valuable and worthy as well (or at the very least, see difficult people as frightened versus frightening).


Bottom line, if our goal is to truly create a better life for ourselves and our family, and leave a better world to our children and our grandchildren, then trusting in love, support, curiosity, and our own self-worth, versus fear, superiority, rage, and reactiveness will be the key. This can only be done, however, by the truly confident person.


Take care and God bless, Dr. Bill